Pardon the poor quality of the video. Things didn’t work out really as it should’ve this time. I’ll try to improve it more the next time.
When McDSP first announced that they would release the three new plug-ins Futzbox, DE555 and NF575 I was very excited. After all, three new plug-ins from McDSP is basically christmas to me as I consider them to be one of the absolute top plug-in developers in the audio business. As the release approached I actually got a little worried that the plug-ins had lost the race against the competition before they had even arrived at the starting line. The verdict?
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Futzbox (pictured above) was by far the plug-in I was most excited about. I simply like to “futz things up”! Before I had even tried it I realized Futzbox would have a really hard time to fight against Speakerphone, one of only two plug-ins which has received the grand wicked approval.
However, McDSP wasn’t by any means just going to lay down and die, so they didn’t make Futzbox no slouch! It uses a technique called “Synthetic impulse models”, or SIM’s, which according to McDSP “use less DSP power than conventional convolution based products”. That’s a slight understatement, Futzbox is much easier on the CPU than for instance Speakerphone. I’m by no means enough technically involved to say if all can be credited to SIM’s or not, but I have often ran sessions with four of five Futzboxes. Should I do the same with Speakerphone my computer would choke like a beginner in a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class.
These SIM’s, by the way, are models of telephones, radios and other things that can be fun to run any pretty signal through. You can further tweak these sounds with a SIM tuner, low- and high pass filters, a 1-band EQ (low pass, high pass or parametric), a lo-fi section (bit reduction, downsample, and filtering of aliasing artifacts), a distortion unit, a noise generator and finally a gate. You can enable or disable these section in whatever way you want.
I’ll avoid going into each and every tweakable parameter, but the distortion unit deserves a more detailed explanation. It features four different controls: amount (the amount of distortion), intensity (kind of controls the tone), rectify (for heavy-duty chugging), and mode (sets what type of distortion you want). It’s slightly confusing that the intensity control seems to behave a little different depending on what mode you’re in. Other than that the controls are pretty straight forward.
If I may be as straight forward, I’ll say Speakerphone is simply a more complete product, and probably a better product for people working in post needing to apply a radio voice coming from a floor above in the room to the left or whatever. It’s as simple as that. But wait! Don’t stop reading just yet, because there are some mighty fine reasons as to why Futzbox is still in my plug-in folder.
Thanks to SIM, Futzbox doesn’t induce any latency at all. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s easu on the CPU, because it isn’t, but compared to the competition it most certainly is. As said above, I often run three or four instances of it in a session. “For what?” you might ask. Do I really need all those radio and telephone voices? No, I don’t, but using Futzbox on bass, a drum bus, room mics, vocals, lo-fi strings, choirs, etc. is really interesting. I’m almost using it as a channelstrip. Because of the filter section and the EQ section I don’t need to use another EQ on that track. The saturation can go from subtle coloring to pure distortion. And should”subtle coloration” be too obvious for you, Futzbox actually features a mix knob.
When I first heard that McDSP would release a de-esser I was very happy. There had been a lack of great de-essers on the market and I would confident that McDSP could bring the gold to the table. But the battlefield suddenly got crowded. More companies noted the lack of de-essers, so even before McDSP had released theirs, Sonnox and Eiosis had already released two de-essers which both looked very good. There were also rumors of a Massey de-esser being in the works, and if that wasn’t enough, Pro Audio DSP released their Dynamic Spectrum Mapper which actually can be used as a de-esser.
With this in mind I wasn’t overly excited about the McDSP de-esser anymore. In fact I had a hard time seeing how it would stack up to the innovative Eiosis and the precise Sonnox. The moment I instantiated the DE555 I realized how silly I had been. I didn’t even listen to it before I thought to myself “this could be really good”.
The first thing I did was browse the presets. McDSP always fill up on those and they’re usually pretty darn useful to! I immediately found a preset that matched the song. With a little tweaking it worked great. It didn’t take long until I decided to compare it to Sonnox SuprEsser. I tried to make roughly the same settings on the Sonnox (they don’t have identical controls so exactly the same settings would be impossible). DE555 won hands down. I realized this wasn’t a fair test since I tried to have the SuprEsser do what the DE555 does. So I started tweaking both de-essers from scratch to see what I would come up with.
The first thing I noticed is that I approached them in two very different ways, almost as if they weren’t the same style of plug-ins. Both ended up sounding good. The DE555 probably a little darker. I tried putting it up against Eiosis E²deesser but found the comparison a little silly. Eiosis E²deesser simply doesn’t work like regular de-essers.
As we’ve almost come to expect from McDSP by now, the DE555 is easier on the CPU than both the Sonnox and the Eiosis. It also has less latency, but latency-free operation for a de-esser seems impossible. The controls are very easy to get a hang of, and despite the DE555 being very precise in operation, it’s really quick to dial in. The filter section lets you set on what frequencies the DE555 should operate. You can set this to be either high pass or band pass, and you can also further tweak it with the focus knob. The de-esser section sets the dynamics controls. You also have some pretty nice metering and a graph at your disposal. The meters instantly reminded me of the ML4000 and I was sad to see that they didn’t work as quick and easy as the ML4000 where you can just grab a little arrow next to the meter and be done with it. I don’t know if such a design would work with the DE555, but it just sprung to mind.
The verdict here is again that DE555 is a little less advanced than the competition, in this case the parameter-packed Sonnox SuprEsser. That doesn’t necessarily make the SuprEsser a winner. In fact, I’m still torn between which one I like the most. The Eiosis E²deesser is as previously stated a whole other animal, and if you prefer it over these two more traditional ones is a matter of taste. I’m just happy that we’ve been blessed with three great de-essers in such a short time!
Will anyone be surprised if I say that I found the NF575 to be the least interesting plug-in of the three? When I heard the announcement of them I was kind of like “yes! YES! Eh.. Back to the other two”. Let me explain to you dear reader, i you’re not familiar with my current approach to music, that this hasn’t really anything to do with how well the plug-in performs. It simply shows my shitty nature, which rather invokes noise than exorcise it. If you didn’t get that from the Futzbox review you’ve must have been sleeping while you read.
NF575 features one band of low pass, one band of high pass filter and no less than five notch filters. It’s obvious NF575 is made to remove hum and other continual noise your recording might have been tainted with. It does the job well, it’s a notch filter, and a pretty damn precise one on top of that. I’ve got to admit that I’ve never researched these type of plug-ins, but I’m confident in saying that this is a good one.
Besides obvious controls, such as frequency and range, it’s worth to mention the possibility of extremely narrow Q settings and the link function. Linking slaves four notch filters to the first notch filter. This means that relative frequency offsets between notch filter one and the other four are retained. Thankfully the notch filters also features a solo button so you can more easilly hear what you’re actually removing.
I do the occasional cleaning of interviews and podcasts, and I’m sure NF575 will be helpful at those times. So if you’re in post, broadcast or podcast and on the lookout for a little notch filtering you should check it out.
While I don’t think Futzbox can fight with Speakerphone in an away game, Futzbox has some advantages (among them are latency-free operation). I use it in almost every (music) session on all kinds of instruments, and often more than one instance. While Futzbox risks to be forgotten in history because of Speakerphone, for me it’s a definite keeper. The DE555 got tough competition from Sonnox, Eiosis and a little later Massey as well. I’m sorry folks, I can’t pick a winner. Anyway, I think it’s most comparable to Sonnox SuprEsser, but with much less controls. Despite this you can set it to be precise. The NF575 leaves the least impression on me. Don’t take this too seriously as I simply don’t use notch filters much. The plug-in in itself is certainly worth a look if it’s what you’re after. It features very precise operation, band soloing and link controls. As always with McDSP you get tons of presets, lower latency (if any) and less CPU-hogging than the competition in all three plug-ins. On a grander scale, the McDSP Emerald Bundle (“everything bundle”) is now a more complete package than ever.